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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Chapter IX: Another Holy War
Our union
Their fall from grace
Confession (confess your sins)
Will seal them to their fate
The burning sermons will survive their curse

Between the Hammer and the Anvil*

"Shieldwall." His roar was so louder, that all the men around heard him, despite the clamour of voices and ringing of steel. "Spears and pikes up front, pass the order down the line, form the wall. SHIELDWALL!." The thunder of cavalry charge grew louder, and the men begun praying, and screaming. A lot of them kept silent, fists clenched around their weapons. "Brace for impact!" a voice roared. A few seconds later an explosion of noise engulfed them. Wood cracked and splintered, steel ringer, arrows whooshed through the air, horses were screaming, men were screaming.. and men were dying. Tall, loud figure that screamed orders a minute before, stood with a large sword in his hands, behind a barrier of men forming shieldwall. Soon, another man come running to him, breathless and covered in blood. "King Ragnar, we are outnumbered. They are pressing us hard, and our cavalry is no match for them. Our defence is holding, for now, but we can't hold them for long. Forest and sea guard our sides from being flanked, but the sheer force of numbers and their heavy cavalry will break us fast." "Where is Jarl Faste?" "No sign of him yet, my king." Cursing the King turned and started yelling at men, to hold their line, slashing with his large sword whenever it seem that the gap will appear in the shieldwall and someone might try to break through. The centre, which was commanded by the King Ragnar, was where largest part of heavy infantry and berserker's were stationed, faced enemy infantry and smaller amount of mounted warriors. But on their left the situation was much more critical. The line stated to bend, under the pressure of enemy cavalry. The heavy armoured knights, mounted, were split into two wedged formations. Whenever Norsemen repelled the attack of the one, and they turned to withdraw, another one would form up and charge, giving no chance for the defenders to rest. Despite all the pikemen and spear-men, and the ditch and stakes that were hastily assembled, they could not contain the assault of such an overwhelming force. King Ragnar had chose this place for a battle, knowing that a forest on the eastern side, towards where Heiðabýr* was would prevent them form being flanked, while the other side of his army was protected by the sea. However they fought with their back guarded by the stream, so there was no possibilty of being attacked from the back. But no way to retreat either, if this battle was lost, they would lose everything. Ragnar knew, that they were outnumbered, and even his trained core, his army of some five thousand highly trained, well equipped warriors, lot of them veterans from previous wars, or men who served with Jomsviking mercenary company or with Varangian guard, could not hold on a flat terrain, grasslands and fields of Slesvig all around them, without natural obstacles to help their defence and heavily outnumbered. He chose this place, so that every men in his army knew that they must fight to their death, that there was no way back now. Where in the name of all-father was Jarl Faste... Ragnar thought, as he stroke with his large sword against an enemy's warrior shield, and wood splinters flew from yet another dented, scratched and broken oaken shield. He remembered all that his father did, all that he did.. He closed his eyes, and for a second, noise of the battle was gone, and he remembered his past, his life, growing up in England, serving as his father's general for a brief few years, being crowned a king, becoming a fierce and renown Viking warrior. My Jarl, where are you? Thor guide you, please hurry...It was only then that he remembered.. Jarl Faste was Christian, but he was praying to the old gods to send him. Christian, just as his enemies across the field were, and their King. If there were gods, were they really as cruel as this? To lead him here, only for it all to end.

Charge of the German Knights, Battle of Syndræburgh, 1097
It's been seven years since Jarl Erik died, and since his son, Ragnar Eriksson was crowned as King of Sweden and Denmark**, a young and brilliant leader, faithful to the old ways and the old gods. King Ragnar ruled his lands with a firm grip, most of the conquered lands in Götaland*** and Danmark were given to faithfuls servants and pagans, who fought for Rangar and Erik in their wars. Although there were Christians who retained their lands, Sons of Svend II of Denmark, brothers to Ragnar's mother, still ruled in Silendi and Halland, southern Juteland, and parts of Skåne. Isles of Bornholm and Gotland were ruled by Christians, and relative of Ragnar, a Christian from the House of af Munsö ruled in, Reinoldsborg, the borderlands between Germans, Slavs and Danes. Faste of House Gautske, from Dal, ruled as Jarl of Västergötland, as well as Ingeväld af Bjälbo in Njuding, and few other minor burghers or thanes. The realm was fragile, Ragnar harboured no illusions about it, and it took his iron will, the intricate web of alliances and debts he build by giving land and titles, to keep it together. However the most important factor was probably, his "Valhalla Guard", how it became know, modelled in the fashion of Varangian guard, but also like ancient Roman Legions or the army of Charles the Hammer, viceroy of Franks. A standing army, paid and trained by the crown, some five thousand strong, consisting mostly of heavy infantry, armoured, armed with swords and axes and equipped with shields. But there were also numerous archers, trained and equipped with warbows, such as were used in Normandy and England, as well as pikemen, and a small detachment of light cavalry for scouting and pursuing, and some heavy armoured mounted warriors, such as were seen in Frankia and in Roman Empire. The idea came to Ragnar from his time in England, where he was tutored by William the Conqueror, and studied scripts and texts about armies, leaders, battles and generals, from Karolus Magnus to Alexander the Great.

Crowned and erected a runestone in the memory of Jarl Erik the Heathen
Ragnar not only accepted some of his vassals as Christians, he also decided to embrace some customs, which were often seen in the Christian lands. As such he was officially crowned at his Royal Coronation, after his father's death, by both Pagan seer and priest from Uppsala, and by Christian Bishop of Skara. King Ragnar did promise to treat all his subjects equally, and he stayed true to his word, but the ones who refused to accept his sovereignty faced an entirely different prospects. Upon ascending to the throne of Sweden, Ragnar ordered a huge runestone created to celebrate the life and rule of his father Erik, and the memory of the war he fought against House af Stenkil to claim back the throne of Sweden. Also many fortifications were being build, or enhanced and upgraded, modelled like the forts and castles in Miklagard, Suðrvegr (Germania), Frankia and Angleland.

New castle was built by an skilled architect which Ingeväld af Bjälbo hired.
Immediately, an envoy was sent to Jamtaland, with a request that Austmod ov Freysey accepts his sovereignty, of face Ragnar on the field of battle. The next few years Ragnar spent leading troops and earning reputation as a young and brilliant strategist, but also as a fierce and skilled warrior. The Jarl of Jamtaland stood no real chance against overwhelming Swedish forces. The war was a brief affair, which ended in Swedish imposing their authority over Jamtaland region. After brief war for Jamtaland, there were numerous raids into the Norwegian territory, in which many settlements, towns and monasteries were plundered and burned. In these, young king only used his personal army, not wanting to commit all his troops and just testing the strength and will of the Norwegians. He also knew that pitting his Christian vassals against another Christian ruler, might anger them and destabilize the fragile realm. And in the event of Norwegian invasion, he could always summon all his troops and his vassals to the defence of the kingdom.

After several small skirmishes, and some settlements and monasteries raided, King Ragnar demanded that Olav of Norway, hands over the area of InnriÞrœndalǫg ( Trøndelag ), where one of the imporant pagan holy sites and temples was located. Faced with a threat, Olav III refused, but although a capable leader and a fine warrior, he was no Harald Hardrada, and he could not withstand King Ragnar and his army. Ragnar marched his army from Dal, raided and pillaged southern Norwegian lands, until Olav was forced to respond and try to repel the invaders. Thus he was quickly lured into an ambush, forced to attack first across the river and then uphill which decided the outcome of the battle before it even begun. Significant part of Swedish forces, and part of their levies, were left as a reserve, and only marched and joined battle, after it already begun, thus striking the flank of Norwegian army and decisively routing them, forcing Olav to retreat towards Oslo.****​

Decisive battle in the war between Ragnar of Sweden and Olav of Norway

The second battle of the war, in which Ragnar faced mostly
Thus, a brief but for Norwegian Christians bloody first phase of the war ended quickly in a disastrous defeat. However, Olav the Third, had one more grain of hope. His ally, King of the Isles (Vannin), from House Crovan (Christian descendants of Ivan the Boneless) agreed to help him fight Ragnar. Several months later, some three thousand of Gaelic warriors, invaded Västergötland, while King Ragnar was leading his troops south of Oslo. Believing that the main part of Swedish army was far away, they dispersed, trying to siege down and coquer several important castles in the central part of Götaland. Ragnar quickly marched his troops, trough the mountains, and tried to descended upon them. But King Olav was already there, the remnants of his army, augmented with some new reinforcements and the army of King Crovan were waiting. However, Ragnar was now fighting on his own soil, and had a numerical advantage. The second battle of the war was as brief and bloody affair as the first one, and those who survived the battle, died from starvation and attrition when they fled towards central and northern parts of Sweden. Although the Christian forces were beaten, King Ragnar used the same tactic his father had, prolonging the war and looting and pillaging many of the Norwegian towns, castles and monasteries, especially the ones in regions bordering Sweden. Thus it was late December of 1094 when the peace was signed, after almost three years of fighting. The peace treaty gave Sweden control of InnriÞrœndalǫg, and it's historic pagan holy temple.

According to the legend, on the night when King Rangar conquered InnriÞrœndalǫg, Fenrisúlfr appeared in the sky, as a sign of victory.
Next few years were marked by peace. King Ragnar concentrated on building his military strength, as well as improving taxation and economic situation of the kingdom. In the previous twenty years, many areas that later came to be part of the kingdom, were raided and looted, as well as some parts of the neighbouring kingdoms. But Ragnar learned during his time in England, that economy of the Kingdom can not solely rely on raiding and pillaging, and he also needed his troops to rest and replenish, because he knew that further wars awaited him. However, seeing the coast of raising a standing army, and upgrading many forts, castles and fortifications throughout the realm, especially in the war ravaged regions of Denmark, Ragnar began planing an expedition, like the ones that his ancestors often embarked on, to plunder and pillage along the shores of Western Europe. As one might expect, not everything was going well. Harald af Estrid, Jarl of Sillendi (Slesvig) had been allowed to kept his titles, by Ragnar's father. Due to one of his sisters being wife and mother to Erik and Ragnar, and the other one being the lover of both, House Estrid reciefed favourable treatment, and kept many of the lands they previously held, divided by many sons of former King Svend of Denmark. But encouraged by Christians, especially ones from Denmark, as well as the Holy Roman Empire, and ungrateful for his lenient treatment, Harald was plotting to take control of other lands in Slesvig, Holstein and Juteland.***** Thus on the orders of King Ragnar, he was arrested and imprisoned. Given that he was a relative, and also married to a distant cousin of Ragnar, Margrete from the Christian branch of House af Munsö, he kept his titles and lands, but was put under house arrest. Being already and old man, past fifty, he lived some five more years until he died of ald age, a prisoner of his nephew.

This however, had far more reaching consequences than Ragnar, and indeed his mother expected. In the south, in the realm known as the Holy Roman Empire, a new emperor was sitting on the throne. Count of Antwerp and Verdun, Duke of Brabant, and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Duke Gottfried the Fat, of House Wigeriche. The dynasty itself was an off-shot of the Karlings, through Drogo of Bourgogne, brother of Charles the Hammer. Heinrich the Black Salian, spent most of his life fighting against revolts in Italy and Provence, and managed to revoke his excommunication only near the end of his life. He lost significant territories, Duchies of Monferatto, Ferrara, Milan, Dauphne and Provence, and fought numerous rebellions. So when he died in late 1093, his son was overlooked, which caused significant friction in the empire.****** In orther to confirm his authority, and show his strength to often rebellious vassals in the Empire, Gottfried used the imprisonment of Jarl Harald as a pretext, claiming that King Ragnar persecuted and terrorized Christian population in his lands, and declared war.


Kaiser Gottfried 'the Fat' Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
When the envoy arrived in Uppland, by ship, carrying news to King, it is said that both King Ragnar and Queen-mother Gunhilde were shocked. Ragnar, often known for his fair and equal treatment of Christians, wasn't expecting that he will have to fight a war against such a powerful enemy. Few times in his life, King Ragnar was caught by surprise it is said, but this occasion was one of them. Ragnar considered asking England for help, but King William the Conqueror had died, and although King Richard and Ragnar had a fairly positive relationship in Ragnar's youth, he doubted that Richard would wage war against fellow Christian and ally himself to pagans. Furthermore, Richard was beset in new Rebellion, that sought to put his brother William Rufus on the throne of England, so even if he wanted to, he did not had any troops to send in Ragnar's aid. Ragnar and his pagans would have to fought this war alone. Well not entirely alone. While some Christians, especially in Denmark, welcomed the invasion, most of them realized, that they would hardly get better treatment from the German invaders, and indeed, most of their lands would probably be sized, and given to nobles and sons of German lords. Thus, most of them put their grievances and differences aside, and joined Ragnar in his fight. While many argued that Ragnar should wait, and let the invaders come through his lands, and wait them in Sweden, where winters would be more severe, and their supply lines stretched, Ragnar refused such ideas. Denmark was already devastated by one war, and Ragnar didn't wanted to risk further setbacks in the fragile economy of the region, which hung in balance. Furthermore, if the Christians were to conquer large parts of lands, local Christian nobles might easily change allegiance, and join the Emperor. Ragnar took his personal army, and immediately marched with full haste towards Slesvig. His five and half thousand strong army, was augmented by some levies from Denmark, from his own personal lands in the Duchy of Syaland. Troops provided by his vassals, and levies from Uppland came marching behind. Ragnar mustered all the strength he could, but his forces numbered some twenty one and a half thousand men, most of it heavy infantry, armed with swords and axes armoured and trained, lot of them veterans of the previous wars. In contrast, the Emperor had over thirty thousand men, and while they had fewer heavy infantry, they had more archers, and far more cavalry, especially heavy mounted droops. To make matter worse, Ragnar wanted to defend his lands, and that meant the battles would be mostly fought in the flat lands of Slesvig, and although there are a few rivers and forested areas, good part of it was flat and open farmland and meadows, which suited Christian heavy cavalry. But one thing that could play to Ragnar's favour was the fact that large part of the Christian army were levies, and most of them were only peasants, with some burghers and lower nobility, not well trained, and armed with anything from wooden spears to pitchforks, knives or whatever else they could get their hands on.

The first battle of the war was but a brief skirmish​
King Ragnar's reaction was quick and decisive, which helped him caught the vanguard of the Empire's force by surprise, with his main host, and repel them back from Ellæmsysæl towards Istathesysæl and further towards Dithmarschen. But the first victory was just a prelude, and although Ragnar did manage to inflict heavy loses to the unsuspecting and much too lenient vanguard, pagans were still significantly outnumbered. In the next month or two, Swedes used indecisiveness of the Christian army, to regroup in northern Slesvig. Aside from the vanguard that was routed, Christian army was made of two large bulks, of roughly twelve thousand each, which moved to southern Slesvig and besieged the forts owned by Jarl Harald Estrid, the same Jarl for which they supposedly fought for, and who was kept prisoner in the fortress of Hatuna. While the Christians waited and wasted opportunity to attack Ragnar's army while it was divided, Ragnar regrouped his army, Most of his force was grouped in some sixteen thousand strong, mostly heavy infantry, archers and pikemen, which positioned in one of the rare places that offered suitable defences, with Heligoland sea to their right flank, and their left flank protected by the forest, which enabled them to fight on the narrow front and avoid being circled and flanked by the numerically superior Christians. Downside of that was that Raganr and his army fought with their backs to the river, which meant, that in case of the rout, there was no possibilty for the escape. The river was shallow and slow, but still a man armed and armoured could hardly cross it, especially if pursued by the enemy. Thus Ragnar ensured that all his army knows, that they must fight till the last men, and that there is no way to turn back, no possibility of escape. The Christians took the invitation, and advanced north, in full strength. Emperor, believing that Jesus will grant him victory, and that the strength in numbers is enough to deal a crushing blow to the pagans, ordered that his whole army simultaneously attack left, right and centre of the Swedes. What the Christians did not knew was the fact that King Ragnar, had sent en evening before some six thousand of his men, all his cavalry, and most of the light infantry, along with some berserker's and pikemen to circle around the forest. A risky move, given that it would take them a couple of hours to move through forest, at night with only a short rest during the darkest period of the night, and then to continue and form up on the southern edge of the forest. From there they could advance, in haste, in western direction, turn north - north-west at the edge of the forest, where trees stopped slowly to give way to fields and meadows, and then strike the Christian army in the back, once the battle starts. However, the whole plan was risky. If they were discovered by scouts and outriders, or given away by some of the local population, Christians could split, or worse deal with one army at the time.

Battle of Syndræburgh, 1097

.... At that moment, doubt begun to creep into the heart of King Ragnar. Was he right, to give command of such a crucial part of his army, to two Christian lords, Jarl Faste of Västergötland, and Herra Svend af Estrid,of Norra Halland. By now, there should at least be a sign of them. The pressure was building up, as the Christian army pushed harder. On the right, numerical superiority played it's part, and even though pagan archers constantly rained torrents of arrows down on them, Christians continue to push in waves. In turn, Christian army rained down arrows on the Swedish centre, and although there the shieldwall was strongest, and most of the soldiers at least moderately armoured, such a barrage could hardly be withstood for long, and arrows found their marks. And on the left the situation was critical. Heavily armoured knights of the Emperor, constantly charged down on the Swedish line. Although there were many spears and pikes on this flank, and some heavy infantry, cavalry, supported by some bows and infantry inflicted heavy losses. The first line of the defence, the small ditch with spikes was already overwhelmed and abandoned, only the mass of the defenders and the fact that there was woods on their flank which prevented any cavalry attack from that side enabled them to held on. Ragnar watched in despair, as another cavalry charge hit the ranks of his soldiers. Most of the left flank were troops from Uppsala, his own lands. For a moment, he stopped fighting and looked on the left, where his people were dying. Allfather, guide them to Valhalla, they earned that right by their blood. "Ragnar!" Someone shouted. An man appeared, from the back ranks, pushing his way towards him. When he came close, he started talking. "Sorry my King. You told us not to use your tittle in battle, so that enemy would... " "Yes, yes, stop the formalities, what do you want, Olaf?" "You should go back, there is still time. If we break, you might take a horse and ride, beyond the river, they won't have time to chase you." "Ride? You mean flee, like a coward. Look at me Olaf. Are you running? Are you going to turn and run if our flank breaks" "Me? No." "Neither will I." "But Ragn.. My King. I am almost sixty, it's time for me join my ancestors in Valhalla. You're young, you have.. " "Jarl Olaf, do you presume that I don't want to go to Valhalla? Or that I am not worthy of it yet?" His face went pale, he begun to stutter.. "N,.. n.. no, I meant.. you are young you could still have time to gather an army, a second army if needed.." His voice trailed off... "No Jarl Olaf. I do not run. Either I earn my place in Valhalla today, and the lands of our ancestors are lost to the Christians. Or we fight until the last man, until our last breath, and until all of the Christian kingdoms squeal and cry in terror of our name. Now we charge. Order the reserve to form up, we shall take the fight to them." At that moment, an eruption of cries and screams came from the Christian army, and a sound of war horns broke across the battlefield. A smile came to the face of King Ragnar, and he raised his sword. "Shieldwall. Advance in line. Slow and steady. Push forward. ADVANCE, NOW!" Finally, Faste and Svend had come. There was no mistake about it. Terrain was flat, so he could not see, but the sounds coming from the Christian lines could not be mistaken, someone had taken them in their read and their ranks broke, as they tried to turn and face the onslaught of the enemy. Now is the time, now to caught them between to armies, like a blacksmith beats his steel between the hammer and the anvil. Gods praise both of you, he thought. Gods praise Faste and Svend, both your Christian god, and the old gods of the ancestors, and all the gods that ever existed, bless them.


From the chronicles of Athelstan,
Account of battle against Holy Roman Emperor, a personal account told by King Ragnar, and written down by Athelstan.

*Hedeby, on of the most important towns of the Viking age, but was destroyed in 1066. Well in this timeline, it is not, it still thrives.
**Title Kingdom of Denmark was actually destroyed when I conquered it via prepared invasion, but I rule the lands of it. Same goes for Duchy of Syaland. I took all of Syaland and Uppland as my own demesne, and my own two Duchies, although only one title exists. Also I am Jarl of Östergötland
*** In HIP the title is called Gautariki, the Kingdom (Relm, land or kingdom) of Gautar(s). The region of Götaland, what is now southern Sweden. Not to be confused with the Island of Gotland, although the root of their name is probably the same, coming from Geats, the people from southern Sweden. The hero Beowulf is one ofthem. Its possible that Gaets and Goths are the same and that Gothic tribes lived there before the migration period. Although the theories are disputed. Wikipedia is your friend, if you are history nerd like I am. :p
****Almost 2500 of the six thousand shown on the screenshot were levies. Most of the battle was fought by some 3500 strong retinue. I didn't wanted to raise levies, to deter any attack from the outside, or any fraction or rebellion, but also to save money, since I spent a lot on creating retinues and buildings, and took back only fraction by looting Norwegians. The Norwegians had some 4500, but they were allied with Vannin (Western Isles of Scotland), which sent some 3500 troops in two stacks, but after I defeated main Norwegian army, they were easy to deal with.
*****He plotted to fabricate claim on Utland, which was my direct vassal, and de jure part of Sillendi.
******Heinrich's daughter was wedded to Richard, the heir of England, and grandson of William, so that itself promises to bring further fun in the HRE.






As you might imagine, these happened over the course of a decade, not in a few weeks, but I felt like sharing. Apparently, good traits often trigger events that give more good traits, so Ragnar has quite an extraordinary stats (his statistics are better than some characters I played before, on which I used cheats).
Just some evolution of Ragnar's traits.​

Concerning the great battle against Holy Roman Empire, I just split my main stack into two, to avoid attrition. That prompted AI to attack, calculating that his ~24k can win against my ~16 stack. Of course, the other 6k were in the nearby province, and it took them few days only to reach the battle. Faste was initially commander, but I gave the left flank to Svend Estrid, his martial was 21 and he was Varangian, although I had -40 penalty for arguing with him at coronation. Faste commanded the 6k in the other province, so when the battle started, Ragnar commanded center, Svend Estrid left and Kettilmund Gårdske the right flank. Two commanders above 20 martial. As you might expect, the battle was actually nowhere near dramatic as I made it, no cheating, no re-loads, nothing, I was at a slight disadvantage in numbers but utterly crushed them.. but I kinda felt it was needed to make it more dramatic. This isn't the end of the war, but more in the next chapter.

First part of the decade was fairly easy, brief conquest of Jamtaland, then war against Norway for Trondelag ( I disabled HIP CB cooldown at this point, was way too bored to sit for 5 years doing nothing) plus some raiding in Norway. I started planing either conquest of Finland, or raiding in England. William the Conqueror died, and England was in a bitter civil war, several rebellions broke out, and William's heir, Richard was fairly incompetent in everything. I hope he dies fast, because his son, William's grandson, also named Richard, looks really promising, ambitious brilliant strategist, really a heir worthy of William.
I also tried, and failed, to kidnap Duchess of Flanders. She's on of the last of 'de Flanders' dynasty, and if I kidnap her and marry her I could gain duchy of Flanders, or at least claim on it. Plus the fourth holy site I need to reform Asatru is in Brugges. To make it better, her mother was Duchess of Aquittane, Poiters and Gascogne (lost titles when rebellion liberatet Aquitaine from France)

I love and hate HIP at the same time, because with HIP mod, you as a king, can not subjugate other kings, and I am pass my invasion limit, so.. also you can not fabricate claims on a kingdoms (maybe you can if you are emperor, but not as king) so.. I have no idea how to take Norway, except province by province, which will take century I guess. I might have to simultaneously conquer Ireland, Finland and Norway piece by piece. Oh and conversion rate for unreformed pagans is ridiculously low, I pushed my moral authority of Asatru to 28%, and still get only 0.42% per year chance to convert province, even with an ambition to convert province. So, while it looks easy from here, things are not nearly bright as it seems by me winning two large scale wars (invasion of Denmark, defence against HRE).


Before the first battle against Norway


Peace treaty with Norway​

Also you might noticed that I sometimes use different names for the same places (Sweden, Sviariki, Götaland, Gautariki, Slesvig, Siilland..) I try to use HIP / Norse names, but sometimes I write really fast, or deliberately use English names so people would know what I am talking about.

I planned to cover more ground in this chapter, but as usual, I can not drop my habit of often going into details. Next chapter, I plan to finish up what I started here, and also as people asked for it, I will show you the situation in the rest of the world, especially since the year is 1100, which seems like a nice date for an interlude.

Also I am retarded, I made a map of that major battle in photoshop, with troops, movements and shit, then somehow I forgot to save it.. no way I am doing it again, it took me a couple of hours, so yeah.

Also, those pictures I found on the internets, obviously, so I have no idea who is the author, certainly not me.
 

RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Interlude I: The World at the turn of the Century
So feed the spark
Welcome to the land of dark
Death in all the centuries is what I left behind
Take my hand
Forgotten in the promised land
Death in all the centuries is what I left behind*


It has been 1100 years, at least in a way the Christians measure seasons that had passed. Since they do not have any reliable and precise measurements, Norsemen also adopted their numbering of the years passed. In the last three decades, a balance of power in the Northern Europe has shifted dramatically, and for the better when it comes to those who do not follow the ways of Jesus Christ.

After taking the crown of Sweden, dynasty af Munsö had conquered Denmark, and successfully defeated the armies of the Holy Roman Empire in two different wars. [1] Thus, the Holy Roman Reich, was weakened and defeated both in the south, where it lost numerous possessions, and in the north, where it was crushed by the revived onslaught of the pagan armies.
While the disastrous war ended in 1097, so far Emperor was able to keep his power, but the setback and the loss of such a large number of men will surely further destabilize the Reich. On the other hand, Sweden had consolidated power in the north, managed to some small extent integrate Christians into the pagan Kingdom, and put heavy pressure on Norway, which stands as the last Christian kingdom in Scandinavia. Further east, in Livonia, Karelia and Finland, pagan tribes are mostly divided, quarrelling amongst themselves, and occasionally raiding their neighbours.
Another power on the rise, on the southern coast of the Baltic sea is the Baltic Pagan Kingdom of Lietuva. Created by the unification of various Baltic pagans in the year of 1082, under the first king, Sotvaras 'the Just' Palemonaitis, In the next two decades, they had conquered several provinces, from the divided and disorganized Rurikids, and are threatening Kiev itself. Lietuva had even managed to defeat Polish invasion under Boleslaw 'the Bold' of Poland, one of the most competent generals and military commanders of its time. Worth noting also are the two chiefdoms, of Pommerania (Pomorsko) and Veligrad, which both managed to survive and can field respectable amount of troops. Chief Aron of Veligrad managed to conquer Wagrien from the Catholic Nakonid family.
In the east, dynasty of Rurik's descendants, are busy fighting amongst themselves. Their power is weakened severely, due to their laws of inheritance, where all lands are divided among the living sons of a Prince.They are beset from all sides, and in a very bleak situation. Principality of Kiev lost Sluck, Pinsk and Vladimir Volynsky to Lietuva. Romuvan chief of Tälavi stands on the verge of conquering Novgorod, after he had already taken the city ofPskov.. In the south, to the east of Kiev, Kursk, Rilsk and Vorsla had fallen to the Kipchaks. Meanwhile, Briansk and Novgorod Seversky had fallen to the Prussian pagans of Goladi. The only hope for Rurikids right now, lies with the current Prince of Kiev, Yaropolk the second. He has only one hair, a capable son who is a good general, and is currently engaged in a war against his brother, Mstislav. If he was to win the war, he could gain control of Smolensk, Halych and Volyn, thus strengthening the position of Rurikids in the land of the Rus.

Much more troublesome, is the fall of the Roman Empire, or at least the Eastern part of it. After their armies were destroyed by Alp Arslan Seljuk, in the Seljuk conquest of Asia Minor, the Empire faced a decade of revolts and civil wars. Several incapable rulers managed to push their claims, and sit on the throne, for which they were entirely not worthy nor capable for.

By the time Adrianos Komnenos rose to power, it was already too late. He faced a major revolts, as many Dukes sought to push their claims for the throne, declare independence or restore some of the previous Emperors, to serve as their puppet. Adrianos was very capable, brilliant strategist, master schemer with a great talent for rulership. The civil wars lasted for fifteen years, and weakened the empire to such an extend, that it was conquered by the Pechenegs in 1089. Since then, several Dukes, including Michael the Bold Doukas, had revolted against the Pechenang rule, and managed to gain independence. Each of them claims to be the rightful Emperor of the Roman Empire, and Duke Symbatikios of Aegian Islands had even managed to conquer back the city of Constantinople, but so far none has the power nor authority to really restore the fallen empire to the glory and power it rightfully deserves.

Similar fate, although not so catastrophic, seems to awaits the Empire of Frankia. it has fallen apart, due to revolts, against the rule of Henri 'the Accursed' of France, son of Phillipe. Roi Phillipe died, in a war against Emir of Mayorca, at the age of 20. That left his infant son and a regency in power. Faced with several revolts, claimants and invasions, the wars lasted over 20 years. Most of them had been defeated, and Henri lived long enough to take the throne, but the cost of it was terrific. All of the southern territories were lost to a revolt and many noble houses that held the power since the Karlings, such as de Poitiers, or de Toulouse lost all of their lands in the Aquitane[2].

Iberia, is in the war for the last three decades. The war is fought amongst Christians, for control of the Northern Kingdoms, amongst Muslims, for control of Al Andalus, as well as Christians against Muslims in an so far, futile attempt to re conquer the lands of what was once Visigothic Kingdom of Iberia.

On the British Islands, Alba managed to conquer the Islands from the Norwegians, as they suffered after Harald Hardrada died at Stamford Bridge. King William ruled with an iron fist, and suppressed all revolts against him. His son, King Richard, faces a more difficult task, as he is nowhere near as capable as the Conqueror was, although Williams grandson, Richard, seems to be a worthy successor to William. A few years ago a Civil War erupted, as some ambitions Dukes are plotting to dispose of Richard, and put William Rufus on the throne. Currently King Ragnar af Munsö is helping King Richard of England, by raiding the possessions of the revolters, and pillaging their lands.




As for the rest of the world, Seljuks are strong to the point of being really frightening, but are facing a major revolt, Most of the Muslims in Iberia, Africa are divided except the Fatmids, which are doing OK, holding Egypt and Israel.


Christian armies suffered an disastrous defeats on the fields of Denmark.





[1] Don't know if I mentioned it, HRE intervened in my conquest of Denmark, but my warscore was already 100%, so I just fought one medium sized battle, which I easily won. The other war, was a different matter.
[2]Guilhelm de Poitiers had 3 daughters, which inherited his 3 duchies. Two were lost in the conquest of Aquitanian revolt, but the second daughter held to the Duchy de Poitou, but she is married to a .. Karling, so Karlings will inherit that one.

Also don't know if I mentioned it, Flanders is ruled by a daughter of one of the de Poitiers daughters, her father was Boudewijn VI of Flanders. I am plotting to kidnap her, so I could marry her and get a claims on her lands.
 
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Does Ragnar intend to reform the Norse faith?
Sooner, rather than later, but I am not sure it will be doable during his lifetime. In HIP mod I must control 4 holy sites to reform it, and the last two are in York in England, or in Brugge in France, Duchy of Flanders. Needless to say, I have nowhere near enough power to take them. Plus York ( I assume Everwyck is York ) is not coastal, so I would need two wars to get that one.
 
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Sooner, rather than later, but I am not sure it will be doable during his lifetime. In HIP mod I must control 4 holy sites to reform it, and the last two are in York in England, or in Brugge in France, Duchy of Flanders. Needless to say, I have nowhere near enough power to take them. Plus York ( I assume Everwyck is York ) is not coastal, so I would need two wars to get that one.
Hopefully civil wars, etcetera will erupt and give your dynasty an opportunity to seize sites.
 
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And the shadow of the Allfather grows longer; well done!

Hope you get the Norse faith reformed relatively soon.
 
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Wow. I don't think I've ever seen the ERE fail before. Definitely not without player intervention.
Also... PRAISE THE ALLFATHER! Long live the line of af Munso!
 

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Took me a while - don't have as much free time for AARs as I used to - but finally caught up with this one :)

Looks like Ragnar has done his father proud thus far, but his father's realm looks as divisive and fractious as ever. Already he's starting to learn that sentimental ties may not always make for strong political bonds; undoubtedly his family's treachery must have stung quite a bit.

Also surprised to see the Byzantines have caved so quickly myself.
 
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the battle of ykaernaeburgh gave you no warscore? and were did they get that horse archer?
 

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I was searching AARs in search of some inspiration for a new playthrough. Your Amon Amarth references have swayed me to start (yet another) Norse playthrough.

Thank you, sir! (And also thank you for this great story!)
 
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the battle of ykaernaeburgh gave you no warscore? and were did they get that horse archer?
It's a bug, known for some time. Supposedly fixed in 2.6.x but I don't know since I haven't updated yet. I'm not exactly sure how it happens, I think when there is some army of ally in a war, and they engage enemy first, or as the first unit (the one that got to the province first / earliest ) somehow you don't get the warscore. I've seen a topic about it twice, last was a couple of week ago, before the patch arrived. I assume the horse archer are theirs too, I haven't paid attention to them really so I never noticed archer cavalry. It might be some glitch since game sometimes rounds up numbers, and there is only one. Too bad I only noticed that now, I might add a lone Norse warrior shooting arrows from the horseback. :confused::D

But I do remember the forces there were there, were actually raiders from one my vassals, Thane of Alir, who raided in HRE and either got defeated or moved towards my / our land in Denmark, and was in the same province with me. So that is why I got no warscore :/

Oh and BTW thanks everyone for the feedback, it's the most important reason which keeps me going with this AAR, even when I am late with updates, and can't get them up as often as I would like. :cool:
 
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Chapter X: Lejonet Från Norden
På ett slagfält, döpt i blod
Skall de mötas ond och god
Örn och lejon, klo mot tand
Satte världen uti brand
Å som världen brann
Å se hur en legend blir sann.
*[1]

There was maybe a peace between Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Sweden, after Gottfried the Fat had lost the war against King Ragnar, but for Ragnar there would be no peace, at least not in this world. He wasn't born for peace after all, he was born to be a warrior, and when his time is done, to join Odin's best warriors in Valhalla.
The war was effectively decided at the disastrous Battle of Syndræburgh in 1097, but that was not the last battle of the war. Ragnar inflicted another defeat to the German armies, a month later, in the First Battle of Ykærnæburgh. The Second Battle of Ykærnæburgh, four months later, when the Christian reinforcements tried to surprise the Swedish army in their encampment, was the last battle of the war. Although it was the first time the pagans lost any significant number of men in the battle, it was another disastrous defeat, and after the battle was ended, Gottfried was forced to accept peace and flee back to his lands, leaving almost thirty thousand dead in the fields of Denmark[2]. Green fields of Silesvik were painted red with blood of the fallen that summer, mostly Christians, in the year of 1097, and the rivers run red for days.
The war however, was still a blow for Sweden, at lest financially. Much of the treasury was emptied, to finance the war and the supply of the armies. It also made Ragnar realize that he had to ensure that not only a large personal standing army as his own force is formed, but that he must also work on expanding and improving the training of both his standing army and his levies. Thus was envision a great plan for building fortifications and keeps, strengthening castles, raising training and mustering grounds for conscripts and levies. This however required a great amount of gold, and even after the most fighting men were sent home, back to their fields, their livestock or their trades, Sweden could not afford everything.

The First and the Second battle of Ykærnæburgh, both a disastrous defeats for the Holy Roman Empire.

After the conclusion of the war, a significant increase of Christian missionaries was seen in Sweden. Trying to achieve through preaching and converting, that which they could not do by the means of war and conquest, rulers from Christendom tried to gain prestige and favour of the pope, by sending their bishops to various regions of the Norse lands. When one such, was arrested and thrown into dungeon by King Ragnar, it sparked an uprising of Catholic militants. And although the Archbishop was released after only a few months, albeit for a large sum paid in gold and silver, the rebellion had to be quenched in blood. Mostly blood of those Christian rebels who stood up against the King. The uprising started when the news that King Ragnar, and most of his army were away. King Ragnar decided to personally led his army, and embarked on a raid, of such scale that his famed ancestors would envy him for not being able to participate in it. As soon as the news that King has imprisoned Archbishop sent by the Frankish king, and left his ancestral lands to lead his armies broke out to the people, a Christian uprising occurred. Even though Ingevald af Bjälbo, a steward of King Ragnar, was Christian, the uprising occurred in his lands, and he proved to be loyal to King, being quick to quell the attempt of rebellion, along with marshal Björn, Jarl of Hälsingland.

At the same time when the increased activity of missionaries occurred in Sweden, another tragic event happened. Gunhild, Mother of Ragnar and Queen-mother of Sweden, died. She was nearing her fiftieth nameday, but was of good health, and showed no signs of any sickness, nor had her age troubled her. Even though many, among them King Ragnar, suspected that some dark and foul thing was at play, no evidence was ever found, and she was buried, as a Christian, in a church graveyard, in Denmark, in the lands once ruled by her father, where she was born.

The Death of Gunhild Estrid, Queen of Sweden, and Princess of Denmark

Next six years, King Ragnar spent mostly with his army raiding all over Europe. At first, he offered to help King Richard, son of William the Conqueror in his war against the rebels, by pillaging and burning their lands. After England, Ragnar swooped on the region of Galicia, in the Kingdom of Castille. Castille and Leon were locked in a bitter civil war that lasted for two generations, and the Swedes used this as an opportunity to raid in the North-western Iberia. After plundering Galicia, Ragnar returned home to Sweden, while sending his army, led by his faithful commanders, back to England, to continue raiding and pillaging in the chaos of the civil war.

With Ragnar went two young boys, of the same age, whom he raised, and always demanded that they accompany him, both to the council meetings, and in battle. One was Halvor, brother of Ragnar, son of Jarl Erik, and Queen Gunhild. He was born almost eight months after Jarl Erik had died, and many had questioned his legitimacy, believing that Jarl Erik was not his father at all, knowing well that Erik the Heathen's and Queen Gunhild's marriage was not a happy love affair, and that Erik had several mistresses nearing the end of his life. There was no doubt however, that Queen Gunhild was the mother of the child, and few dared to question the legitimacy of Halvor in front of him, or his brother King Ragnar. To make matters even more complicated, it seems that young Halvor, raised by his mother until the age of eight, when she died, was closer to the one god that Christians worshipped, than to the Old Gods of the North.
The other boy, was of the similar age with Halvor. In fact they were born only a few weeks apart from each other, and he was named Erik, after his grandfather. He was the natural son of King Ragnar, but his mother was Ingrid Estrid, sister to Ragnar's mother. Ragnar never even tried to hide the affair, openly acknowledging him as his bastard son, and admitting that his aunt was his lover. 'Christians may be condemning such acts, but I am not Christian, but a man of free will.' he said. Both boys were born in late summer of 1091, and so were almost eight years old, when Ragnar took both of them to serve him as squires and cupbearers, while he led his army raiding in England and Iberia.

Raised as brothers, first by their mother's and later by King Ragnar, but both seems to accept Christ, instead of the Old Gods.
So it came to be, that most of the period between 1098 and 1104, Ragnar spent outside of his realm. Although only one minor rebellion occurred during those six years, the realm was not as stable as Ragnar hoped it would be. Realm was governed by the council, and Ragnar sent and received messages every month, giving orders from afar, and governing his realm through his council. One of such occasions was the upheaval of Jutland, as it became known. On orders of King Ragnar, Holmger Rödfalk, who was given the provinces of Harthæsysæl and Wændlesysæl after the conquest of Denmark, was given the title of Jarl of Juteland. However, he barely held the title for a couple of months, when a faction, led by Knud af Estrid, Thane of Abosysæl and Samsø overthrew him and placed Henrik Thrugot as Jarl. A rather interesting turn of events, given the fact that Knud's father, Svend II, was overthrown as King of Denmark, by Henrik's father Svend III. Ragnar and the council tried to intervene, but by the law thanes and Jarls did have the right to fight each other, as long as they respected King's authority, so there was no way for Ragnar and his council to depose Henrik, without risking to further antagonize other jarls and thanes, especially Christian ones.

Jarldom of Jutland
At the same time frame, Jarldom of Sillendi changed hands, when Jarl Sivard 'the Usurper' of House Estrid, defeated his brother Svend, and declared himself Jarl of Sillendi. Jarl Svend and jarl Sivard were sons of Harald Estrid, the oldest son of King Svend II of Denmark, and brother to Queen Gunhild and Princess Ingrid. So while Ragnar's rule in the pagan regions were not questioned, large portion of his Christian vassals proved to be very difficult to rule. Even worse, they were in constant fear of being excommunicated by the Pope in Rome, to the point that some of them even refused to allow their daughters to marry pagan jarls, or even Ragnar himself. Even worse, they were constantly scheming and plotting, either against each other, or sometimes even against the King. Even his own family was not without such upheavals, as on more than one occasion, Ragnar had to intervene in fights between his younger sister, Astrid, and his brother, Halvor. As mentioned, Halvor was born after Jarl Erik died, and favoured Christian customs, the one of his mother. Some childhood fights between Halvor and Astrid, evolved into open enmity and rivalry, and Astrid declared that Halvor is neither true Swede, nor true son of Jarl Erik, and openly swore that she shall see him dead, as he is a disgrace to her father's name. Ragnar had to threaten and beg Astrid, to stop her scheming, and one of the reasons why he took young Halvor with him, was to separate the two, in the hope that distance will calm things down, and make them less hostile to each other.

Children of Jarl Erik and Queen Gunhild: Ragnar (1072), Aslaug (1080), Astrid (1086) and Halvor (1091).​

One can understand the fragile situation which realm faced, when Ragnar decided it's time to return back to Sweden. Although his army was left behind in England, fighting and looting the rebel lands, Ragnar sensed that he could not afford to bee much longer abroad. One of the first acts upon his return, was to throw Jarl Henrik into dungeon, and to enforce severely more strict laws upon his unruly subjects.

Given his poor financial situation, and the fact that he infuriated Ragnar, Jarl Henrik faces a potential lifetime in prison.​

Soon however, the unruly vassals were to become the least of Ragnar's worries. Ever since the War for Sillendi (Slesvig) 1096-1097, Svend af Estrid, Jarl of Sillendi, was kept as a prisoner of Emperor Gottfried the Fat. However, in early winter, November 1101, Gottfried abdicated[3], forced by opposing fractions of electors and his old age, gluttony and alcoholism, to give the throne to his son Hesso. Not only Hesso was a son of the Emperor, Duke of Brabant, and count of Antwerp and Verdun, his first wife was Mechthild Biling, daughter of Matilda of Toscana and Spoleto, and Duke Magnus of Saxony. When he was elected Emperor, his elder son was Duke of Spoleto, count of Spoleto, Firenze and Siena, and his younger son count of Modena and Reggio Emillia.

Hesso, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire​

As soon as he was elected, he worked to strengthen his grip on the Empire, and centralize power. To this end he also squired the lands of Montefeltro, and was finally crowned by the pope in 1104. Interesting note here, in a weird twist of fate, Pope Ioannes XIX who crowned him, was from house Salian, and first husband to Duchess Mechthilde of Toscana, daughter of Matilda of Toscana. When Heinrich Salian died, and the empire passed to House Wigeriche, Ioannes, who was a relative of Heinrich Salian married, daughter of Matilda[4]

Hesso I Wigeriche, Holy Roman Emperor

As soon as he was crowned by the Pope, Hesso decided to show his strength, and loyalty to the Pope, as well as to show the princes and bishops of the Empire, that he is not a mere puppet, and a weak emperor. Much of it came from the fact that his father could be labelled as a weak drunkard, and emperor who's greatest accomplishment was to muster a large army supported by his numerous vassals, only to suffer a defeat at the hands of pagans. So he promised to do, that which his father could not, to conquer Slesvig, and liberate Danish Christians, from the oppression of the Norse pagans.

Second Holy War for Slesvig, 1104
What Emperor Hesso did not know, at the moment he ordered his troops and his vassals to muster their strength, and to prepare for an invasion of Denmark, was that King Ragnar had returned to Sweden. While almost six thousand of his troops were fighting in English civil war, Ragnar had arrived few months prior to his seat at Håtuna. Upon hearing the news, Ragnar immediately ordered all able men, to be recruited into the armies, armed and provisioned. All the summer work in the fields was to be left to women, young and elderly. He left his marshal to gather and provision armies of Sweden, and lead them south. He personally, boarded a ship and sailed immediately to his demesne in Syaland, where he personally supervised recruitment, provisioning and mustering of the forces. As soon as the forces from Skåne and Denmark were ready, he marched them towards Jutland, using any boat that he had to hoop almost ten thousand soldiers, from one Danish island to the next. He quickly led his troops south, towards the lands of Holstein, and crossing border between Denmark and German lands, he managed to surprise scouting forces of the Emperor, and annihilate them in two quick battles. Christian forces neither expected such a quick and decisive response from what they perceived as de-organized an unruly pagan rabble, nor they realized that their experienced warrior King was leading them. So far only the forces from the souther regions, Denmark and Skåne, had engaged the enemy in the battle. Believing that that is the whole army that Pagans managed to gather in such a short time, Christian forces marched north, into the heart of Slesvig, seeking to catch and destroy numerically inferior opponent. But in waiting and being slow to gather, they allowed Ragnar the only chance he needed. Having enough time, not only for his Swedish forces to gather and arrive, Ragnar also sent messengers, to his army in England, that they quickly gather or their loot, and urgently sail back to Denmark. By allowing only half of his army to engage the enemy, Ragnar lured the Emperor into a trap. Their forces met to the east of the small town of Ribe, where first Christian church in Scandinavia was built somewhere around 860, by Ansgar, Arch-Bishop of Hamburg-Bremen. Ansgar may have build a church there, but on that day in 1104, Jesus was not with the Christian army. Lured into a trap, and led by masterful King Ragnar, Christian forces were butchered. Such was the confidence of Christians, that many of the commanders, including Emperor, were not with the main host of the army, but stayed behind, falsely believing that they have numerical advantage, that the pagans will avoid open battle, and that Ragnar is far away from Denmark, which in turn would prompt local Christians to switch to their side. Battle was brief and bloody, Pagan armies approached Christian forces on the flat fields from two directions at the same time, surprising them, while they were streched on a march in several columns. They managed to form lines, and turn towards the pagan army, or the part of it, but then the second part of the pagan army approached them, flanking them and striking at their side. The battle quickly turned into a rout, and Christians were forced to flee south.

Battle of Ribe, first major battle of the Second Slesvig War​

Not wanting to give the initiative to the enemy, Ragnar now pursued the fleeing Christians, who turned south. Survivors from the first battle, were soon augmented with another Christian army, and were forced to fight again. Already tired, and now in significant numerical disadvantage, Christians tried to held off pagans, while they slowly retreated to the south, towards German lands, where more forces were expected to arrive. Although large part of the army did manage to flee south towards Bremen, the battle of Pylwaerm was a bloody affair. Christians fought ferociously, out of despair knowing that they are fighting for their lives. Many were slaughtered or captured, but more than two thousand Danish and Swedish warriors were left dead on the battlefield.

Second major battle of the War, another devastating loss for the Christians.

By now, the road south was open to the pagan armies, and Ragnar split his forces, and started to siege down forts and castles in the bordering lands, and to raid and pillage towns, churches and monasteries. Given that he suffered some losses in both battles as well as in sieges, maybe Christians hoped there is still some possibility to turn the tide of the war. However, by this point, six thousand seasoned veterans, personal guard of King Ragnar, had arrived from England. Raiding and pillaging in their own lands, forced Emperor to engage Ragnar in another open battle, this time some distance to the North-West of the city of Hamburg. Already low on morale, battered and facing far superior enemy, Christians suffered another catastrophic defeat.

Third and last major battle of the war.

It is said that the Emperor Hesso cursed, cried and wept, weather because of the shame of his defeat, for the loss of his soldiers, or because his ambitions were shattered, it is not known. Christians were forced to not only recognize Ragnar as the rightful King of Sweden and Denmark, but also as probably the most powerful ruler in north Europe.


Chronicles of King Ranar of Sweden, as started by the hand of Athelstan, and completed by Harald


I met King Ragnar for the first time after I was captured, or maybe I should say after I was released. He was an impressive men. He looked younger than he really was, tall, strong of body but lean, with long dark-red hair, the colour of dark copper, that fell to his shoulders, and beard of the same colour, neatly trimmed. His green-blue eyes were keen, lit with fire, as if the flames burned behind them. He wore a steel chain-mail armour and simple helmet that covered most of his face. He had an oaken shield, enforced with steel, and a long battleaxe, as well as a hunting horn. But his favourite weapon, which most often he used in battle, was a large two handed greatsword. He had one, which belong to his ancestors, which had both a ceremonial role, but was also used in combat too. It was decorated with runes and dragons, and had +VLFBERHT+ written on its blade. marking it for a very prestigious sword, of high quality.[5]

The Sword of House af Munsö, borne by King Ragnar Eriksson af Munsö​
This was the dreaded King of Sweden, Ragnar, son of Erik. Unlike most common men, he had many names. "The Scourge of Europe." "The Hammer of the Christians." "The Dragon of Miðgarðr." "The Flame of Galicia." Depending of who you asked, there were some much worse.. 'Ragnar the Accursed', 'The Monk-killer', 'Slayer of Children', 'The Spawn of Devil'. Now when I know him, I think he would be much amused by them.. well with most of them, not with all. But when I meat him, I was afraid to even stand before him, let alone call him by one of his many nicknames. I was brought before him, after the last battle of the war was over, and his men captured me, or freed me, while I was in an unwilling service of the Emperor of the Germans.

"My King, we have found one of our own a traitor, inside their castle. He was working for them, for the Christians, and their Great-Jarl."[6] The prisoner's face went pale, but he kept his composure, and bowed his head towards the king.
"King Ragnar, if you would allow me. I am no traitor, for I come neither from Sweden, nor from Denmark. I do speak your language well, because where I was born, we still have traders, most of them from Ísland, and I travelled often, even to the lands of Danes and once even to the land of Gaets, I ... "
He broke him. "And from where do you come then? What are your lands." His question was not harsh, nor rude, more curious.
"I.. I come from the land in the far west, and north. They called it Grœnland, although it is green in summer only, and white for most of the year."
"Really, you come from the famed lands beyond the sea? How come you come this far then, and all to serve the Christian Emperor?"
"Sir... I was a prisoner. They have captured our ship, when..."
"A prisoner? They tell me you were free to roam the castle, not in a cell." His voice grew even more curious. The look in his eyes told clearly what would happen to those he deemed to lie to his face, but he was genuinely intrigued by this .. prisoner.
"Sir, maybe it would be best to tell you my whole story. My name is Harald. My father named him, or so he said, after Haraldr Hárfagri[7], twho was our ancestor through maternal line, if the tales are to be believed. My great-grandfather was called, Erik, Erik Thorvaldsson, although people came to call him Erik the Red. You might know, or maybe you don't that he was exiled from the land of Ísland, and so he discovered and settled on Grœnland. His son, my grandfather, was Leif Eriksson, and he sailed even further, to Markland, Heluland and Vinland. Under his leadership, we established settlements in these new lands, and found that some of them were rich, with fish and timber, with seal, narwhal, whale and walrus. In some parts you can even grow crops, or find ore. He also discovered that all these strange lands, were inhabited. By simple folk, who hunt and gather, sometimes even grow food where they cane. They are also ferocious when angered and fierce in battle. Thus we come to my father, Thorkell. He was the son of Leif, and ruled after him as the chief of the settlement. He ruled long, and often traded with the Skrælings, the inhabitants of these lands, and made several settlements in them. When he was past his best years, a battle occurred. He sent a small fleet of longboats, to the far south, to discover new lands and to trade, but for some reason the meeting turned sour, the southernmost outpost was burned, and our people forced to flee back north. But in the battle, they took some prisoners, among them a young and beautiful woman, and my father Throkell, took her for wife, since his first wife died giving birth to my half-sister. He was an old men, my father, and when he died, my older brothers and sons of my father's brother, divided and ruled his lands and chieftains. They never threatened me, nor do me harm, but I was much younger, and my mother was a Skraelig, and outlander, so they never fully viewed me as equal. To them I was a son of a concubine, even thou their mother died and my father married my mother. But as it may be, I decided to travel the seas, explore and trade, as Leif my grandfather did. So I travelled to Vinland, and often to Ísland, and from there even to your lands, when your father was still King. Less than two years ago, my ship and two others, traders, who often sailed between Bretlandseyjar[8], Ísland and Danmark, were captured of the coast of Frisia. When they realizes I could speak the language of the Danes, they took me to work for them. I spent two years there, and I was allowed to roam freely, given back my freedom, but where else would I go?"
"And, no doubt, you were promised at least some sort of reward after the war was over." The king's look was a bit frosty, but still he showed no anger.
"King... King Ragnar... I will not deny, but the reward would probably not be great, given that I am no famed warrior, nor had I any claims, nor warriors to help them."
"Tell me, does your people still travel south, to the lands of Vinland? Do they still trade with Skraeligs?"
"I haven't been in my homeland for years, King, but last time I was there, and from the news I had from our traders that I met, yes, they still do."
"One more think. Are you a kneeler, Harald?"
"My king... I... I don't understand?"
"Are you a Christian, Harald? Do you kneel to the cross, to you serve the Jesus, which they so love in these damned lands?"
"Y...Yes, King Ragnar. My... my grandfather, Leif, he was a Christian himself."
"And his father was not!" King's voice roared. "You might do well to remember that. And to remember your ancestors.
Now, they tell me you can read and write. It might surprise you, that I can too. See, we might be pagans, but we are not all uncultured savages, here in the North. I even speak a bit of Latin, albeit only a bit. A token of the time I spent at a court of William, King of England and Duke of Normandy. Be that as it may, my men here, tell me you are literate, and I have a need of you. You seem to accept serving Kings and Dukes, rather easily, so you might not find it hard to serve me too. Athelstan, a Christian, and a monk, whom my father captured, and used as a court chronicler, is dead. Which means, that I need someone to take his place. And that someone, seems to be you, Harald. We are not Christians, but we are not without desire to learn, study and record our deeds for our children, and their children, of deeds that happen in these lands. Now take your stuff, if you have any, and prepare yourself. It is a long way to Uppsala, but you might find it warmer there than in Grœnland. So you better be good with that letters of yours, or I shall write one letter for you, with my sword. On your neck. Now off with you. RUN!"

Only when the frightened Harald ran from the small chamber where he met the king, did Ragnar started laughing with his men. "Loki take him, I almost burst into laughter when I saw his face when I screamed at him, the bloody fool. He seems useful, and I do need a chronicler. Father was right when he decided he needed one. Keep an eye on him, and don't let anything happen to him."




The battle between Norsemen and Natives​

The peace treaty of 1097, between King Ragnar of Sweden and Kaiser Gottfried 'the Fat' of the HRE


Raiding of King Ragnar.
(As you can see, some provinces were looted twice.)


Decisive battle in the English civil war, was won by Ragnar's raiders with some help from the Ricahrd's army. After that rebels were forced to accept peace, and Richard I de Normandie was able to hold on to his Kingdom.



Two minor opening battles of the Second War for Slesvig. The second army, 1250 was either a retinue or mercenary band.

At fist, I lured them to come North, leting them only see my smaller stack, and giving them an 'opening' to attack numerically inferior opponent.


Then I surprise them by joining forces on the same day from two directions, on the same day when they arrive in the province, thus negating their numerical superiority




[1] The song is actually about Gustav II Adolf of Sweden, from Sabaton's Carolus Rex album. If you haven't already, listen to that album from Sabaton. Even if you are not into metal, that album is great stuff for any history freak.
[2] 27500 thousand men lost for the HRE in the war.
[3] I have no idea if he abdicated, or was forced by a fraction, the HRE history shows Hesso as 'Elected', but by the dates, I see that Hesso become Emperor in November 1101, while Gottfried died six months later, in April 1102.
[4] Interesting twist of fate, given that historically, Matilda never had children and left her lands to the Pope. And she sided with pope against Heinrich IV Salian, and waged war on him in the papal investiture war.
[5] +VLFBERHT+ swords were of unusually high quality for it's time, somewhat similar to Damascus steel, but also there are some fakes or it would seem. Yes I know most of Ulfberht/ Viking swords were not two handers, but hey.
[5] Emperor (of the Germans) or the HRE, but what would a peasant warrior know about Christian titles...
[6] Harald Fairhair. I made up that part, as far as I know, Leif Eriksson, or Erik the Red were not related to Harald Fairhair, at least as far as I know.
[7] British Islands
[8] After the war, I was left with barely 1000 gold, when I had 2500 before it started. More importantly, I realized that heavy cavalry can be devastating, even when I have pikemen, so I started building and improving a lot of buildings in my demesne, to further boost size of retinues, as well as number and quality of troops. I got good +15 golds / months, but given the size of the realm, I should earn much more. I loose a lot because of Christian vassals, and as well because Scandinavia is poorer than some other areas, and I lag in technology a bit. Too bad that in this version there is no focus, and no event to grant me addition settlement slots in the provinces.


Of course no event or colonization of Greenland or North America, can occur in game, but I was always fascinated by the Viking exploration of it, and wondered what would happen, that what if?, if the Vikings actually continued the exploration and colonization of North America. So I decided to put some flavour in the story.. although it will have no real consequence on the gameplay itself.

Besieging down provinces with my 5500 retinue was quite slow, it took me something like six years to besiege all those provinces on the map above. And I usually picked the ones that had their levies raised. Not all of them had, but some did.

I actually checked the save file, to see who killed Ragnar's mother, Queen Gunhild, and it seems he was killed on the orders of.. my own spymaster. What he hoped to achieve I can not fathom, aside from the fact that she was Christian, and he was Pagan. However, since in game I never found who was responsible for it, I rolled with it, and kept him as my spymaster, since there is no way Ragnar could have known that... oh and Jarl Erik IS the father of Halvor. So he truly is Ragnar's brother. I have no idea how he became Norse instead of Swedish or Danish, maybe because his father died before he was born? Halvor is currently my heir, since I haven't married yet. I was hoping to either get some bride from the famous house, or some with really good stats, but I always got denied because they will refuse offers from infidels.

I actually feared this time for real, as my retinue was in England, and I desperately needed money, so I coinsidered pulling them out, or leaving them to loot. In the end, I left them to siege down all the holdings in the province that they were in (Glouchester), so this made a war a bit harder, as I only had my levies. However, AI is never good at managing armies, he either stacks them in one stack and suffer attrition, or splits into two distant separate armies. I was helped by the fact that there was some minor rebellion in the HRE, although I don't even remember if the Emperor fought, or it was war among his vassals. Be that as it may, the recipe from the previous war happened again. He sent in small stacks of 1.5k and 3k at the border, I whipe them out, one large stack of 15-20k marches in, I join my roughly ~ 2 x 12k, defeat them, another stack of 15 comes in, I defeat them, he then joins them into one, but now that one has less than 20k after two losses in two battles, and then I defeat them again and manage to get 100%. Only this time, when I got to 100%, I quickly raided and looted the bordering regions Dithmarschen, Elsfleth and Stormarn.

On a side note, French king sent his Archbishop 3 times to my lands, and 3 times he was imprisioned and ransomed for 145 gold. Even more funny, two times it was the same guy, from the Screenshot above, but soon he died from the old age, so he sent a new one for the third time.

Also screenshots show there were no commanders of the army, while that is not true. Although Emperor did left command of his army in the first battle, there were commands in the battles. The screenshots, for some reason show commanders of the first stack in the province, but not all of them. And most of the armies, both mine and that of HRE, were divided into smaller stacks and then moved to the same province for battle.
 
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WolfgangMcghee

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Impressive victory against the Empire yet again. But I'm curious if you have read the Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell? That's one of the only places i've seen the Ulfberht swords mentioned.
 
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RhaegarTelcontarTargaryen

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Impressive victory against the Empire yet again. But I'm curious if you have read the Saxon Tales by Bernard Cornwell? That's one of the only places i've seen the Ulfberht swords mentioned.
I haven't yet.. I did watched the TV show, but books are always better. I have a couple of books, but I still haven't found the first one in the series. I buy English versions, not translations to my native language whenever I can, so obviously I very much want to read them. I have second four books so far, but need to find first and third, and then I will get down on reading the series.
 
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TWR97

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Subbed, I tend to have a soft spot for the House of Af Munso, seriously, they're the descendants of Ragnarr Lodbrok himself, pure badassery right there. And you just destroying the Imperial Army like that? I can see why the Vikings are making a comeback.
 
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